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A Saturday Pond Perspective

by Albert Sirois

In 1950, my parents, Roger and Jeanette Sirois, went to see a three acre lot for sale on Saturday Pond which was bordered by The Town Landing, Rayville Road, the pond shoreline, and the outlet to the bridge. They could see the outline of two rather large snow covered 8 and 10 foot tall mounds next to the Town Landing. There was also an old barn still up by the road on the property. Being unable to really see the land under the January snows, they were somewhat reluctant about purchasing the large pond lot for $500.00, but decided that it would be a nice place for the kids, Bill and I, or all to enjoy during the summers.

Springtime finally came, and my parents were really anxious to see just what they had purchased. Living in Auburn, Maine; they only had about a 35 minute drive to Otisfield. When they finally arrived in early May, they saw still patches of snow, but the ice had melted off the pond and its beauty became instantly apparent. Their lot was mostly wooded with an open area where the two mounds stood. One mound was a sawdust pile, the other was a larger pile of tree bark that extended down with a layer into the pond. So parts of our shoreline had a rough black bottom to walk on, rather than nice sand. "This layer of bark can still be found today, but two inches of added sediment during the last fifty years have covered it. It gives us a good indicator of how fast sediment buildup is occurring in the pond."

At one time, there had been a saw mill on the property that sawed many trees cut around the pond that were either hauled by truck over the ice or floated to the mill. You can still see logs that sunk before they reached the mill on the bottom of the pond, and can rise when decaying gases build up. Logs can stay up with one end above the water level for years before they will once again sink. In many cases, they may just rise to a foot below the surface making them unseen, and potentially dangerous. So beware each spring as you may get a surprise to see the end of another log up near or above the surface of the pond. "Thanks to Jeff and Abbey Marble and family for marking the position and later pulling out one such log during a past recent summer."

In 1952, the pile of sawdust and bark became the best mulch one could have spread over their land to fill uneven terrain and keep the grass down. The barn also supplied much of the lumber, timber, and a tin roof to build our family's cottage.

At that time, the Great Oaks had been in operation already for many years offering many boys from the Northeast a wonderful summer experience. Going down towards the outlet, the Greenleafís camp was next to the boy's camp. It has since been torn down. Then not far from the outlet, our cottage was now there. Over on the other side of the outlet was a small red camp, originally owned by Mr. & Mrs. Elmer Smith. Next to the Smith place stood Mr. & Mrs. Linley Peaco's beautifully built 1948 log cabin. Both the former Smith and Peaco places still stand today. The rest of the pond was totally wooded, and without any buildings.

Mother couldn't swim, and we as young children hadn't yet learned. So she had one rule we definitely had to follow whenever we took our trip around the pond in our heavy old rowboat. We had to row along the shore all the way which made it quite a long trip around. So one of us would row while the other was free to look for fish, bullfrogs, turtles, beavers, deer, moose, dragonflies, water snakes, loons, Great Blue Herons, other shore birds, and anything else that caught our attention.

The water in those days was another foot lower than its lowest point today. The Great Oaks would sand bag the outlet, but it would later leak around or under their efforts. There were many beaches, a sand bar, and rocks more exposed around the pond. Grassy wet and shallow areas supported many bullfrogs that would sing so much at night that a light sleeper might not have appreciated the night's symphony. Some years, there would be two families of loons at one time living on the pond. Yes, the fishing was fantastic too, with bass, pickerel, and catfish being the main fish sought. Uncle Jerry kept 22 pickerel caught one January day with the smallest one being 22 inches in length. I wish I could remember the actual length of the largest one caught over 30 inches long. Very few people wanted yellow perch or eels. (Brook trout stocked in the late 1950s did not survive.) White perch did not exist until quite recently.

So my brother Bill and I, really enjoyed seeing so many things on or near the pond, and we got to know that shoreline well over the years rowing around it so many times. We knew where all the rocks were, and during the spring, it was common to see paint from boats or outboard motors on top of those rocks whose owners either forgot or didn't know they were there. Those rocks still look a little brighter on their tops today. Painted turtles would be on many of these rocks sunning to rid themselves of parasites on most days. Now we see them mostly on fallen trees near low activity shores.

There had been on occasions occupied beaver houses on the pond during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1953, beavers built a dam across the outlet that eventually grew to about 50 feet wide flooding much of our and Mr. Peaco's land. It did make a most beautiful bullfrog pond with all sorts of things a kid would just love to explore. Unfortunately, not everyone shared my feelings. My uncle was asked, and did trap five beavers that winter. That was the end of my wonderland. The stream came quickly back to its previous and present shape.

Sometime before the middle 1950s, Mr. Peaco sold land to Mr. & Mrs. Wilfred Baker. That was the first lot sold along the southwestern shore. I can remember them hauling their lumber from our shore across to their future building site on a raft, then boats, that kept going in a serpentine motion across to the other shore. It was difficult pulling those heavy loads using a 5hp Johnson outboard motor and keeping the direction of it all going where you wanted. At that time, the now called Blueberry Lane did not exist all the way, until the Bakers had a new road bulldozed from the field down to the pond. Many new cottages were soon built along that shore during the later 1950s and 1960s.

Building on the pond continued at a relatively slow pace during the 1970s to the middle 80s until "The Saturday Pond View Estates," became established. I knew that a huge part of my former playground would soon no longer exist. Soon "The Great Oaks," project became a reality. Again, more shoreline would be built upon. I was saddened to see it happen, but I soon understood that these new people wanted to enjoy the pond as I had most of my life.

Then in the early 1990s new physical changes came to Saturday Pond. Our new dam was built with areas around it later fixed to prevent leakage. It all worked extremely well, and for the first time, we were able to better control and maintain Saturday Pond's water level. The summer water level was now held at new historic highs never seen on the pond. It was well over 1 Ĺ feet higher during July and August than ever before. Many small beaches, the sand bar, grassy shallow areas, and rocks disappeared under the water. We lost a major portion of our bull frog population, probably due to loss of our low water grassy habitat, and probably other environmental factors. Luckily, we do still have some hanging on in some few shallow areas remaining. It did though make it much easier now to drive our boats right up to our docks.

Other changes during the 1990s occurred as well. Each spring for a month or more after ice out, the water remained still very dark with suspended silt in it. The big point, ( where there still arenít any cottages yet ), had in the past, been all sand along its shoreline. Now a silt buildup covered it with a short underwater grass like weed growing. Upon pulling some up, you can see the nice sand still underneath. This grass like weed is now showing up in new areas around the pond. In the past, except in or near the inlet, and up to the former sandbar, it was mostly found in deeper water where muddy bottoms exist.

However, there has been much silt buildup occurring along our shores in many areas enabling this weed to get a foothold where it wasn't before. It's not too pleasant to walk in, but it is teaming with all sorts of aquatic life.

Also, in the cove towards the northeast, with The Saturday Pond View Estates on one side, and the partially built shoreline on the other side; there's quite an increase of a long underwater weed that was always present, but at a much lesser degree. Shoreline erosion has occurred at a much faster rate with some areas showing more exposed rocks and undercutting of banks.

Nevertheless, we are very fortunate that our newer neighbors on the pond, for the most part, have followed good environmental practices, and are very concerned about keeping Saturday Pond's water quality as best as we can. It was they who started "The Saturday Pond Watershed Association", that test our water quality annually.

Our Dam Keeper, Gordon Peaco, has lowered or raised our water levels several times, attempting to balance the concerns of boat owners and the environmental needs of Saturday Pond. Lowering the pond water level did make a big difference. The level of spring water suspended silt has gone down from the previous decade. I have gone out after ice out and well into June during the 90s to see wave action hitting along our shores where you could visibly see the soil eroded from the pond banks with sediments darkening the shores. Sometimes the waves would go completely over and overwhelm the shoreline at spots.

I can't tell you that wave action and erosion of our shores has completely stopped as our summer water level is still at a continued foot higher than during the past 1950 to 1980 decades. During this past and very wet June, on windy days when the winds were coming from the south, the end of the Great Oaks Cove was still showing a darkened area of silt being churned up off this wooded area. The waves were going right over this very low shoreline.

I am deeply concerned whenever I see new soil or silt visibly eroding from the shoreline by waves continually hitting it and being deposited into the pond. This is not rain or water runoff, but caused by wave action. Silt is very high in phosphorous content, and one couldn't add a better fertilizer to a body of water if one wanted to increase weed production, than adding more soil to it. A healthy balance of weeds is part of a normal contributing life factor of a pond, until that is, there are too many. Water quality can test very good even with many weeds until the balance has been tipped where too many dead weeds decaying in the pond during the fall, rob it of oxygen, and then ultimately bringing down water quality. Some silt coming into the pond is from spring run off, but most of it has been coming from high water levels with wave action eating away at our shores. We've taken a good step to help lessen that problem.

We are so fortunate to be on such a beautiful pond that still has good water quality, a peaceful setting, plenty of wildlife, and of course, good neighbors. I do hope that you and your children are all enjoying many outdoor activities from swimming, boating, or just a quiet ride around the pond enjoying the beauty.

After 50 very fortunate years, my wife, brother, and I still love that slow ride around Saturday Pond making sure we still follow the pondís edge, enjoying the sights, and yes, taking note of any changes. So if you see that green canoe powered by an electric motor with a lady in front, and with a man steering, that's Jacinthe and myself. She also makes me follow the shoreline. Please take care and help to keep our pond a wonderful place to enjoy.

Al Sirois